Daryl Bowden fell asleep on the living room couch Sunday night. He woke up to a faint whiff of smoke and wondered if a neighbour was having a fire.
He fell back asleep briefly and then woke to “yellow smoke” choking his second-floor apartment.
He quickly roused his girlfriend, Kelsea, and her dog, Ernest, who were sound asleep behind the closed door of the bedroom.
They escaped into the cold, rainy night, where they soon met up with the two occupants of the triplex’s other two units.
Rick Green, who lived on the main floor, had a similar experience. He woke to the smell of smoke and decided to open his door to look outside for the source of the odour.
“Where the power line goes into the house, into the electrical panel ... it was glowing and I could see fire,” Green said.
“I ran back inside, grabbed my phone and called 911,” he said. “Then I went and started banging on the doors and made sure everyone got out safely.”
Within minutes, their quiet little nook on Hoover Crescent was teeming with fire trucks and police cars and paramedics.
“It was frightening,” said Bowden, 29, recounting the harrowing experience. “Everything I have is gone.”
An avid hunter, Bowden laments losing an expensive rifle and fish-finding equipment, not to mention his clothes and furniture and other belongings. He did not have insurance.
He said he escaped with just a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and flip-flops; his wallet and car keys and “everything else” was destroyed by the stubborn blaze that burned for several hours.
“I’ve been thinking about it and none of that stuff means shit,” he said. “I’m just thankful that everyone was able to get out. That’s what’s important.”
Green was also fortunate to get out, along with his co-worker from Dwinnell’s Delivery & Movers, who lived in the other unit of the two-storey home.
They, too, lost everything. None of the tenants have insurance.
While the tenants deal with replacing personal items from bank cards to toiletries and clothes, the next challenge - a daunting one - will be finding a new place to live.
Bowden, who lived in the triplex on Hoover Crescent, just off High Street, for four years, has temporarily moved into his parents’ home, which was already a “full house” before he arrived.
“It’s not ideal,” he said.
His girlfriend is living at her mom’s house in Barrie where Bowden is also welcome, but until he gets new car keys, he can’t drive his vehicle which remains parked on the Hoover Crescent driveway.
And he is a heavy equipment operator for All-Stone Quarry in Ramara Township, so he wants to stay in Orillia.
“The owner of All-Stone has been fantastic and has been supportive, giving me paid time off to deal with this,” said Bowden.
“But it’s very stressful” trying to find a new apartment. “There’s literally nothing out there. I just want to get back on my feet again.”
Green is in a similar situation. The 51-year-old, who has lived in the triplex for about 10 years, has moved into his son’s apartment.
“He bought me a single bed and that’s about all I have now,” said Green, a father to two sons who live with their mom. “I lost everything including the stuff my boys had here.”
Green said he is still in shock and is reeling from the experience.
“Where do I even begin?” he wonders. “It’s an awful thing. You can’t even imagine.”
A gofundme account has also been established to help Green. Click here for more information.
If anyone can help Green find a new place to live, he would welcome any assistance at email@example.com
A gofundme account has also been set up to help Bowden and his girlfriend. Click here to support them.
If anyone has any information about a potential apartment that is available, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The fire, which erupted just before 1 a.m. on Monday morning, is not suspicious, say Orillia Fire Department officials, who noted there were working smoke detectors in each unit.
Deputy Chief Steve Miller said it appears it was an electrical fire, noting the fire was in the walls and moved into the attic soon after firefighters arrived.
The roof later collapsed and the structure of the house is beyond repair. Officials estimate the damage at $500,000.